John Charles Turner '04 is about to enter his first year at the Thayer School of Engineering. An easygoing young man with intense brown eyes, Turner's undergraduate career at Dartmouth is a study in leadership. A familiar figure on the football field, he was named defensive scout team player of the year as a sophomore and also was vice president, president, and new member educator for his fraternity Gamma Delta Chi.
Recently named Greek Man of the Year for his example to his brothers and to the community at large, Turner continually has challenged his fraternity to aim higher. "When I joined Gamma Delt, I felt we could do better than just be a social group, and we have," he says. "But I couldn't have done any of this by myself. It was something that happened because other people-my brothers in Gamma Delt, faculty members, administrators, and alumni-pitched in and did what was needed.
"It's also important for me to combat stereotypes. It's a personal thing," Turner adds. "I play football and rugby, and I'm dedicated to my brothers, but that's not all there is to me."
This is somewhat of an understatement since Turner combines his talents on the gridiron with a love of Brahms and Debussy. An accomplished pianist and composer, he drives regularly to a Claremont, N.H., elementary school to talk to youngsters about sports and classical music. "It's good, especially for young boys, to see you can be an athlete and a musician," he says.
George Faux '84 also is something of a contradiction. His life as a managing director at Citigroup is spent almost entirely in the air. "I'm on a jet at least twice a week, traveling to one of our international operations," he says. Yet the power of his fraternal experience at Dartmouth is strong enough to bring him to Hanover several times a year to strengthen his own fraternity, Phi Delta Alpha, by working with the administration and getting other alumni involved.
"Dozens of Dartmouth graduates came to the house's reunion this year," says Faux, who received the Greek Adviser of the Year award at the annual Coed, Fraternity, Sorority/Order of Omega awards ceremony in the spring. "It's crucial for us to work with the administration and with undergraduates to demonstrate leadership so the Greek system can retain its best traditions while becoming a more vital part of the campus community. It's important for students to have a place to call their own. I had that in Phi Delt, and those bonds of friendship will stay with me for the rest of my life.
"At the same time," he adds, "there is tremendous complexity within the Greek system. Most of the stereotypes aren't true. Take me, for example: I'm a Catholic guy from the South Shore of Boston, who married a Hindu woman from Nepal in Rollins Chapel in front of a Baptist minister and a Muslim best man."
Of different generations, representing different houses, and with different aspirations, Turner and Faux reflect how Greek life at Dartmouth is changing. In ways both subtle and profound, the Coed, Fraternity, and Sorority (CFS) system is forging new connections on campus, with alumni, and in the community. Four years ago, a steering committee on Greek life examined how fraternities, sororities, and coed Greek organizations could meet the challenges the administration had set for them in 1999. The group emerged from those discussions with a clear sense of direction and a higher set of expectations.
"There are three components necessary for a CFS organization to be successful at Dartmouth," says James Larimore, dean of the College. "First, the students must commit to the organization's values; second, alumni need to work with undergraduates to bridge the past to the present and create the future; and third, the administration has to work closely with students and alumni to achieve success."
In recent years, the successes have been substantial. Each CFS organization has created an action plan through which its members can work to accomplish six guiding principles. Scholarship, leadership, service, being inclusive, accountability, and brotherhood and sisterhood are the new standards Greek organizations must adhere to if they are to retain their standing within the College community.
Their efforts paid off this year when Dartmouth sororities and fraternities were recognized for outstanding achievement in leadership development. During the Northeast Greek Leadership Association Conference in February, the Dartmouth Lambda Rho chapter of the National Order of Omega Greek Leadership and Scholarship Honorary Society won one of the group's most prestigious awards. And Dartmouth's Panhellenic Council won awards for excellence in overall council management, leadership and educational development, and membership recruitment.
Dartmouth's fraternities, sororities, and coed Greek organizations also report a steady increase in community service and philanthropic activity. This academic year, the College's 27 CFS organizations increased their volunteer hours by 2,210, for an overall total of almost 34,000 hours, and boosted their fundraising by $9,000 to almost $40,000. Working with the administration, the Greek system's priorities for the coming year include continuing to build relationships with the campus community, ongoing leadership education, and enhanced outreach to alumni, advisors, and corporation officers.
For its part, the College is committed to helping CFS organizations succeed in meeting the new standards and higher expectations. From enhanced advising programs to assistance with bricks and mortar, the goal is to ensure the groups have the support they need to be effective within the overall campus context. Dartmouth's trustees, having completed a building audit of all CFS buildings on campus and determined where renovations and repairs are needed, voted recently to make low-interest loans available to help organizations improve their facilities.
"I had an opportunity to start with an organization [Gamma Delta Chi] that was definitely not where we wanted it to be," says Turner. "A huge test of my character was placed before me, and I was called to step up to the plate and decide what I was going to do. Would I just continue to let my chapter go down its path, or would I challenge the culture of the house? I chose the latter."
The challenge he describes is one being faced by every sorority, fraternity, and coed Greek organization in the Dartmouth community. Working together with alumni, faculty, and administrators, they are rediscovering their traditions, reinventing their relationships to the campus, and moving their organizations into the future.
"Sororities and fraternities are still groups of people coming together because they like one another," says Larimore, "but that's not enough anymore. Now they are being asked to make a commitment to something larger than themselves."
[The Order of Omega publishes Greek Times is available online.]
By Laurel Stavis
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Last Updated: 5/30/08